Shes out there and you know it.
Well known and around and active on the web since forever you're the closest we have in our community to the Elders. I say that both with respect and the full knowledge you will kill me for saying that, if we ever meet. Still — there is this "The Ancients" aura around you because even though you've been around in SEO and on the web for a while, you don't claim the rockstar-fame status people like Michael Graywolf or Danny Sullivan have … yet we can't say you're a very private person either.
What's the difference between Meg and Michael Graywolf or Rae Hoffman?
I'm old compared to most in the industry; that's no secret. But then again, I started very young – selling used mini-computers full time at fifteen.
Private? I'm very private. Exceedingly and obsessively private. All these years on the net – I've seen (and sometimes experienced) a lot of the ways it can go horribly wrong. But very few people really know much about me other than what I post on WebmasterWorld or Twitter, most of which – let's face it – is pretty superficial. I don't even have much of my own web presence. My avatar is a cartoon. Rae said recently that for all she knew I was a 27 year old male sitting in his mother's basement eating Cheetos. I'm not – but I could be. Who would know otherwise?
I've been on the net since way before there was a web. But I don't really consider myself much more than an entry level SEO, and I'm certainly new to areas like affiliate marketing.
I don't know a thing about link building. I just try to make content (for my sites or my client sites) that people are going to want to link to.
I have a basic idea of the common sense way to construct a site so that the search engines can figure it out. I don't do anything very fancy. Even now, I still learn much more than I impart.
I have brought back a few clients who were tossed completely out of Google due to shady (and shoddy) SEO idiots they'd hired. But that's not rocket science.
I'm reasonably confident about my PPC skills. I've been in that pretty much since it started, and I've always had mad marketing skills. I cut my teeth in direct mail marketing. Someone well placed at Google AdWords once told me I really get it. And I believe I do. I don't always agree with it – but I get it.
I'll never be a rock star. I don't aspire to be. People follow Rae and Michael because they're smart and obviously successful at what they do, and they share an incredible amount of good information. And because they *are* the rock stars, and everyone wants to be close to a rock star. People follow me because I'm funny.
You host web sites. You do SEO, PPC. You have your own sites. And you post on Webmaster World. But what do you have to say there; you're certainly not going to outline how you get your clients ranked or how you squeeze every Adsense dollar out of your domain collection.
I originally went to WebmasterWorld to learn, not to post – mostly about Overture, AdWords and organics. And then eventually AdSense when I started with that.
I was probably there three or four months just reading before I ever posted. And that's my primary reason for being there to this day.
It took me a while to get used to some of the strictures; I've been in conferencing for 25 years, and I was used to rather a more open environment.
Some of it still chafes. I've flounced off in a huff on more than one occasion. But I also firmly believe that if you play in someone else's yard, you have to play by their rules. Ultimately it still has a lot of value to me, so I always go back. And I always renew my membership. And some day (not this year) I might even show up at Pubcon.
Most of my clients are ecommerce clients; I spend a lot of time on ecommerce sites, working out usability, how to present products, user experience, etc. WMW is great for scoping out how other people do things, the technologies they use.
I use search on WMW a *lot* because almost every issue I've ever had, someone on WMW has worked through it and posted about it.
And some of the regulars, like g1smd and pageoneresults – I hung on every word they posted for YEARS before I ever conversed with them on Twitter. I would steal their brains if I could.
I've also appreciated direct access to some Google employees. A chance to give them my feedback – usually at the top of my (virtual) lungs.
So I get a lot out of WMW, and because of that, I feel somewhat obligated to give some back when I can. I admit I may not always do it as politely as I could.
I've even occasionally gotten two, maybe three clients over the years. I get requests almost every week but I turn almost all of them down. I don't have the time. I'm full.
You own 1500+ domains. Mortals look at that and go "blackhat auto-content crap" or "wow, at just 15 minutes of content or whatever per domain, that's 48 workdays for all domains combined!!!"
What do we have to imagine when we see that number, when someone owns 1500+ domains? Link pyramids? Made For Adsense? Or do you have … issues … where every good idea you have gets dot com added to it? (good idea dot com)
Issues probably comes the closest. The domains have kind of gotten away from me, and I'm getting out of that.
The first year I made a killing, from parking and I sold some to end users at a hefty profit. So I thought I knew what I was doing, and I ended up acquiring way more than I wanted, some through purchase, some through barter, and I actually inherited some.
But after the first year it didn't go so well, and I finally realized I don't have the time (nor maybe the temperament) to be a real domainer.
Most of them aren't doing a thing at the moment. I'll sell some, let a lot of them drop, and keep the ones I think I can do something with or really believe are still a good investment. I have a few really good ones I don't want to let go.
It was an expensive mistake, over all. But I learned a lesson. I don't mind making a mistake. I mind making the same mistake twice.
Are quantity and quality mutually exclusive? See: content farms, Wikipedia, Mahalo, etc.
It sure seems so.
What people don't seem to get is that it ends up taking just as much time and effort to make a crap site pay off as it does to make a really good site pay off; maybe more. And while you might make a few bucks to begin with, you can never rest comfortable in the knowledge that it will contain to pay off and support you in your old age. Whereas a good, authority site or two or three – that's a *retirement* plan.
Look at all the issues with Mahalo these days, between the thin (or non existent) content and link schemes and the writers – it's one thing after another, almost every day. I sure wouldn't want all that on my plate. I'm the only one in my family who's NOT prematurely gray. I'd like to keep it that way
What does a Meg day look like? What is it you *do*? Handcode lots and lots of client sites? Build your own emporium? Read Google patents? Walk me through it…
Not terribly compelling.
Get up, go to the office.
There are four of us; we're all equal partners,I'm the president.
We work out of the home of one of my partners; we converted most of his basement into our office space. We have a lot of servers there and also some at colo and other hosting.
We do niche web hosting and a lot of email accounts – we developed our own anti-spam product just for us and our clients. And our particular specialty is extreme customer service. We do everything. So when I get to the office, there are almost always some fires to put out – someone can't get their email, or they need advice on getting rid of a virus, or they want some changes done to some custom database work we've done. Recently I had to de-hack a WordPress site for the first time; that was fun.
I browse through WMW, and twitter to see what's hot, what looks interesting.
This summer I have three client launches to oversee; one of which is a totally new platform with 2000 products, redirects, feeds – all kinds of issues. I have to get the organics and the PPC set up, but I also consult on writing the product pages, the pictures, the navigation – everything. That's pretty much my day this summer.
I spend one hell of a lot of time in email. And also explaining – it seems like I'm always explaining something to someone.
At night I work on my own sites – this time of year it's mostly fireworks fireworks fireworks. It's quite busy right now – I'm looking at 75K pageviews today – and it will keep climbing until July 5th, then *death* !! Heh. All my best stuff is seasonal. I
What's the reason you're not cashing in on your name, your fame, and get a really well paid position at one of the leading SEO companies?
Well I don't have that much fame, I don't believe that SEO is my strongest skill set, and nobody ever asked. But even if they did, I wouldn't take it.
I've turned down some pretty good non-SEO offers. I don't want to work for someone else. I made the decision in 1996 that for better or worse, I wanted control over my own destiny. I don't think I *could* work for someone else at this point.
I left school at fifteen to go to work full time in computers. Never went back, nor went to college. I've only been on two job interviews my entire life. But I've never been out of work a single day that I didn't want to be. And I am confident I will always be able to find a way to support myself. I'm still learning. Still getting better. I know I'm smarter than the average bear, and pretty creative.
There will always be a market for people who can do what I do. And I know where to go to find it.
Within the parameters of "I'm not going to give away my money secret" — what's the best advice you can give to someone wanting to earn if not a living at least some extra grocery money on the web?
That's a hard one. I see so many people just floundering.
I guess the main point would be that there aren't any shortcuts. There's no money tree to shake. You have to put in the time and do the work.
To know if a web site has a good chance to earn you money you need to give it at least …… how long?
I don't know. I don't have a formula.
Some of my sites took off immediately, some never really did but were labors of love. Some pre-date monetization. Most of my stuff is seasonal – the fireworks, some Christmas and Halloween sites, etc.
My best earners have taken a few years, but they weren't originally created to be income sources in the first place.
But I have shut down sites in around six months if I find the monetary potential has changed, or I can't devote enough time to it, or I misjudged some other aspect.
I've got two I'm working on now that are both in very competitive (totally different) niches; but I think I see a wedge in each where I can squeeze in something unique. I am doing all the writing myself, so my only cost there is time.
My weak spot is design – but once I finish the content, and get some objective opinions on it, then I can decide if I want to float the cost of a custom design, or go simple until I can gauge its success.
What am I missing, Meg? Now that you're ahead in time and you look back — what should we pay more attention to?
Beats the heck out of me. I don't look backwards all that much. There's some domains I had back in the late 90's that I sure wish I'd hung on to. My crystal ball is at the dry cleaners.
The geek in me wants to know: which 3 applications or services, besides your browser, would recommend?
I am a total and complete Excel freak. Can't stand any other Office product, but I love Excel 2010. (Except that I really want to tell them all the stuff they still need to fix in it) I LIVE in spreadsheets. I put RECIPES in spreadsheets.
I am quite dependent on Dropbox now.
Does twitter count? Yea, I know it's over, it's been done, all the cool people are using other things, blah blah blah. I don't care, I love it. People thought it was such a new thing when it started up, but we used to have something very similar on the old UNIX conferencing systems. The one liner, 140 character attention span platform suits me to a T.